By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JAN. 9, 2012…. Taxation without representation?
That might be the case for about 82,000 residents in Worcester, Belmont, Arlington and Cambridge if leaders on Beacon Hill opt against scheduling special elections to fill the seats being vacated by Rep. Vincent Pedone and Rep. William Brownsberger, who both could be gone from the House before the end of the week.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Monday told the News Service he was leaning against holding special elections in both districts.
“Right now, I’d have to say I’m leaning towards not having a special election Pedone or for Brownsberger,” DeLeo said after a meeting with Gov. Deval Patrick and Senate President Therese Murray.
Candidates this fall will run in newly shaped House and Senate districts in the wake of the decennial redistricting process, creating potential special election complications for candidates and voters amid the transition between existing and new districts.
Pedone, chairman of the Committee on Bills in Third Reading, could leave the Legislature as early Friday to begin his new job as executive officer of the Council of Presidents of the Massachusetts State University System, he said Monday. The Worcester Democrat said he is still trying to work out logistics, but would resign within two weeks.
Meanwhile, Brownberger is poised to win election to the state Senate on Tuesday when he is running unopposed for the seat left vacant when Sen. Steven Tolman resigned to take over as president of the AFL-CIO.
“My gut feeling is that I’m very concerned about folks not having a representative for a period of time. Having said that, I seem to be sort of on the side I think of not putting the cities and towns through the expense,” DeLeo said. “Not that it’s not worth obviously having a state rep, but I think there’s another thing involved here.”
After redistricting, the contours of many House districts are scheduled to change for the 2012 elections, but the courts have maintained that special election candidates must run under the old configurations. DeLeo said that would create a scenario in which candidates would be campaigning in one district, while gathering signatures in different precincts starting in February for a 2012 re-election effort should they prevail in a special election first.
Secretary of State William Galvin told the Worcester Telegram and Gazette in Saturday’s edition that he would recommend against a special election to fill the seat held by Pedone.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Galvin said, but “if asked my opinion I’m going to recommend against holding a special election. Let every candidate run against each other in September for an open seat,” Galvin said to the newspaper, adding that it would be “almost impossible” to hold a special election now.
DeLeo said that Galvin left a message for him on Monday, but that he had not yet had a chance to speak to the secretary, who is the state’s chief elections officer. It the purview of the House to request and schedule a special election in the case of a mid-term vacancy.
Should the seats be left open, residents of the 15th Worcester district and the 24th Middlesex District would be without a representative in the House until the new class takes the oath of office in early January 2013.
Pedone declined to comment on Monday whether he thought there should be a special election to replace him in the coming months.
Though the Legislature typically adjourns at the end of July for an abbreviated session during election years, both departures at the start of the second year of the session would leave residents without a voice in the House when bills dealing with the budget, health care reform and sentencing reform are expected to come up for consideration.
Pedone represents precincts 2 and 4 of ward 3, all precincts of ward 4, precinct 3 of ward 5, and precincts 1, 2, 4 and 5 of ward 10, in the city of Worcester.
Brownsberger represents Belmont, precincts 2 and 4 in Arlington, and precinct 3 of ward 10 and precincts 1, 2, and 3 of ward 11, in Cambridge.
DeLeo also said he has not decided who will replace Pedone as the chairman of the Committee on Bills in the Third Reading, but said “soon” he would start thinking about it.
“He just filled the bill very, very well. Sometimes you have to know how to say no. Other times you have to learn how to take a bill, but you might have to make some tweaks and changes to it to make it more palatable and he was just able to do all of those things so he’s going to be missed greatly,” DeLeo said.